Dyslexia: Understanding and Remediating Auditory Processing Skills

Although there are a number of cognitive processing deficits that can cause a diagnosis of dyslexia or a reading disability, challenges with auditory processing tend to be the prevailing cause for many struggling readers.  However, many of the terms used to describe these core problems can be confusing.  In fact, wading through a comprehensive testing report can be overwhelming, because they are packed with complex cognitive and remedial terminology.  In this blog, I hope to unscramble the tangle of terms associated with auditory processing.
What are Some Key Terms One Should Understand?
  1. Auditory Processing:  Auditory processing is the brain’s interpretation of the sounds we hear. A difficulty or delay with auditory processing is not an issue with hearing, but with the understanding of what is heard.  It’s a complex operation that involves auditory synthesis, auditory closure, auditory sequencing, auditory discrimination, segmenting and auditory memory.  
  2. Auditory Synthesis or Auditory Blending: The ability to pull together individual sounds to form words.
  3. Auditory Closure: The ability to fill in any missing sounds to decode a word.  For example, this may involve understanding what someone with a foreign accent maybe saying when they delete a sound or two in a word.
  4. Auditory Sequencing: The ability to properly order language sounds in words or sentences.  For example, a child may reverse the units of sound so that when they say the word animal it comes out “aminal.”
  5. Auditory Discrimination: The ability to recognize differences between sounds.  For example, some students may struggle hearing the difference between the short “e” and “a” sounds.
  6. Segmenting: The ability to break a word into individual sounds or phonemes.
  7. Auditory Memory: The ability to remember what is heard.
  8. Phonological Processing: The ability
    to detect and discriminate a broad awareness of sounds including rhyming words, alliterations, syllables, blending sounds into words, as well as deleting or substituting sounds.
  9. Phonemes: The tiny units of sound that make up speech – such as the letter sounds.
  10. Phonemic Awareness: The ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds – also known as phonemes.  This, for example, includes the ability to detect the first sound, middle sound and end sound in a word.
  11. Phonics: A method of teaching reading by pairing sounds with letters or groups of letters.  It is the process of mapping speech into print.
  12. Receptive Language:  The ability to understand the language that we input, including
    both words and gestures. 
How Can These Difficulties be Remediated?
  1. Use an Orton-Gillingham, phonics based reading program that offers activities that strengthen auditory processing.  One of my favorite programs is Nessy Reading and Spelling.  There are many programs available, and our friends at the Dyslexia Reading Well offer a great review of the different programs.
  2. Build core cognitive skills through games and remedial activities.  Here is a great bundle of cognitive exercises at Good Sensory Learning
  3. Integrate fun activities that help students to practice the needed skills.  Check out the Reading Gamesfollowing Directions Activities and other fun reading publications at Good Sensory Learning.
I hope you found this helpful.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to:,  

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Auditory Discrimination Deficits Can Result in Funny Misunderstandings

As a child, I was often
teased by my silly misunderstandings of expressions, phrases, words and even
lyrics to songs.  Although my hearing
was excellent, I struggled with auditory discrimination difficulties.  As a result, I continually confused
sounds that were similar and often misconstrued what people were telling me.   For instance, after a year abroad
with my family living in England, we returned to the United States and I
entered the first grade.  On the
first day of school, when my teachers and peers detected my British inflections
they asked me about it.  To my
dismay, my explanation resulted in laughter.  When I got home I complained to my mother, with a big frown
on my face, that the students and teachers had laughed at me.  I just couldn’t understand why they chuckled
when I told them I had an “English accident.” 
One of my current
students, Ben, and I are both members of what I like to call, “the dyslexia
club.”  For the two of us, the
primary weakness that resulted in our diagnoses was auditory discrimination
deficits.   In particular, we
had fun sharing our misunderstandings of song lyrics and had a good
giggle.  A week later, Ben came
into my office and said, “I’m
so confused.  For years I thought it was, ‘play it by year,’ and recently
found out it was ‘play it by ear.’  Is that my dyslexia?”  I nodded.  He
looked at me with his head cocked and his brow furrowed and said, “Play it by ear doesn’t make any sense.”  He had a perfect understanding of the
saying and felt that his misinterpretation was a better fit for the meaning.  
Here are a couple of other cute
misunderstandings that my students have made:
“Challenge words are my worst
“It happened in a half hazard
Do you have any to share?
Remember that the kids that
struggle with this cognitive processing weakness are not aware of their
misunderstandings, so make an effort not to laugh at them and gently guide them to the correct

If you want to learn more about the research behind this, check out this article from the NY Times

Cheers, Erica

Dr. Erica Warren is the author,
illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory
Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn,
in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can
go to and 

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